The other day I posted a picture of the above piece of equipment on the Health-e-Helen facebook page* asking people if they knew what it was. As you can see from the photo, this wasn’t the hardest competition in the world, more a test of observation as I posted the wrong pic and choose the one with the name written on the side! So yes, everyone, let me introduce you to the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. I had been playing with it at London gym Equinox home to all manner of exciting bits of workout machinery including self-powered treadmills and a ladder climbing thingy that makes you look really thin in photos (more on those in a few days). This however was the most exciting. After all it’s a machine so special you have to wear strange rubber trousers to use it.
Used for runners recovering from injury, or to train for ultra-distance races without excessive joint pounding the AGT uses air to make you feel lighter than you actually are. You can still run at the same pace, but with less stress on your body. As far as I’m concerned the Dumbo Double Dare counts as mini-ultradistance and therefore as far as I was concerned this test could therefore count as a legitimate part of training – even if I was only in there 15 minutes! I therefore couldn’t get on it fast enough.
It works like this. You put on the special rubber trousers which come attached to a plastic skirt with a zip. You then get onto the treadmill and into the plastic sheeting and your skirt is zipped to the plastic. It calibrates your weight, and then, you choose how much lighter you want to be. Antoni, the trainer who was helping me chose 70% of my body weight and then air was pumped into the treadmill lifting me ever so slightly off my feet. I then started to run. It was bizarre. Instead of my normal thumpy, clompy steps, it was like ballerina running. I was light and springy, my ponytail bobbing along behind me, just like those girls who run through fields in adverts. It was also really, really easy to run – I was running at 11km an hour (a pace that does leave me a bit of off puff) at a 5 percent incline (something that leaves me very out of puff) but could have kept going for 20-30 minutes easily. I really enjoyed it.
‘So is this is what running would feel like if I lost 30 percent of my body weight?’ I asked Antoni, who replied yes – and then said some other stuff, which I can’t remember as I was just working out how much weight I’d have to lose to achieve this miracle bouncy, bouncy running style. 42lb is the answer, three stone, 20 odd kilos – forget that for a game of toffee. Not only would I look about 20 years older and like a lollipop, I’d have no friends as I’d have been on a diet for about three years and an absolute cow for 99% of them. I think I’d rather clomp.
Still, it did teach me some useful stuff – when the weight lifts you up everything about your running style changes. I was running lighter on my feet and I was lifting my body up through my hips. Normally, I slouch and as Antoni put it, “You slump into your run” leaning further forward and pushing my weight down toward the floor. He explained that if I concentrate on trying to lift my upper body up through my hips – not just by putting my shoulders back, I’ll run lighter and be straighter. I tried it yesterday during my training run and it does work to increase pace and reduce the energy you use – plus it would probably stop my back aching so much at the end of longer sessions.
So, my advice, if you have an anti-gravity treadmill in your gym is to ask for a session. You might not be injured but it could teach you a lot about your running style. Just don’t think how many people have worn the rubber trousers before you as you peel them off – they’re sweaty!!!!
Oh, and if you’re asking ‘what Health-e-Helen Facebook page?’ you must have missed last week’s big announcement. Basically, it’s more stuff – but shorter! Find it at www.facebook.com/healthehelen and press the ‘ like’button to get the daily updates.